Gotham’s Reckoning: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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The Dark Knight Rises (1)

“The Dark Knight Rises” Review

Cast

Christian Bale……………Bruce Wayne/Batman
Tom Hardy……………..…Bane
Gary Oldman……………..Commissioner Jim Gordon

Credits

Director…………………….Christopher Nolan
Producers………………….Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Writer……………………….Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer

You might be wondering, “How did one of ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy films make it on to this page?” And yet, here I sit, writing about ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for the fantastic movie that it is and the fact that it does make you think.

The truth is, I’ve always wanted to write about one of the new Batman films, but I think neither ‘Batman Begins’ nor ‘The Dark Knight’ had as much thought-provoking material as films like ‘Warrior’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and the other films on this blog. But along with the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed trilogy comes the most thought-provoking and introspective of the three.

*BEWARE, this is movie is the third film in the trilogy, so – while this review will not contain spoilers for this movie – it may contain SPOILERS to the story and endings of the previous two movies, so if you haven’t watched the previous two films, stop reading. But seriously, who hasn’t seen the previous two?

Now, with that said and done, let’s get to the real business. The film. And boy, what a film. The hype surrounding this film was immense and expectations were sky-high (after all, ‘The Dark Knight’ was definitely one of the best films of the last decade), and Nolan delivered. And that can be seen right from the stellar first scene, where we meet the superhuman Bane, played by Tom Hardy. Bane – as he nonchalantly hijacks a plane and kills without hesitation – is pure evil, ferocious, and downright scary.

The main story of TDKR picks up 8 years after the death of Harvey Dent/Two-Face at the end of TDK where Batman takes the fall for the cops that Two-Face killed, and for the murder of Two-Face himself. Now, the Dent Act (based on a lie) has managed to lock up over a thousand of Gotham City’s largest pawns in the organized crime game, and the city is a far cleaner and safer place than it was 8 years ago. Like one character mentions, “It is peace time.”

For the last 8 years, Bruce Wayne has been a shadow of his former self, never leaving the rebuilt Wayne Manor. He has retired from being Batman, and is now so riddled with scars, broken bones and damaged cartilage that he can hardly even walk anymore. But one night, when he finds one Anne Hathaway breaking into his house, he begins to uncover a conspiracy involving his own company and he must take action.

Meanwhile, Bane begins to terrorize Gotham City, so much so that Bruce is forced put his cape and cowl back on, despite knowing that every cop in the city is going to go after him for killing Dent. So much for “peace time.” And this is where the films really picks up, becoming an all-out war between the Gotham City and Bane’s army.

The acting in this film is truly astounding. Every single member of the cast plays their role to perfection. Christian Bale is even better than in the previous two films, showing ferocity and fearlessness as Batman and emotional vulnerability and frailty as Bruce – something not many would have expected. Alfred assumes a larger role in this film as Bruce’s counsel and Michael Caine is really excellent in this role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also excellent as John Blake, a city cop bent on restoring order to Gotham. Even Anne Hathaway, who plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman, is fantastic. I was very apprehensive about Catwoman in this film (in fact, the word ‘Catwoman’ is never even said in the movie) and how she’d be played and what part she’d play in the story, but my worries were ill-placed as Hathaway was sophisticated, strong and sexy, all at the same time.

And then there was Bane. My god. Tom Hardy was nothing short of extraordinary. The physical presence Bane carries in the film is tremendous and he exudes pure strength. Hardy gets Bane’s voice spot-on too. His up-and-down intonation shows flamboyance and flair, but also doesn’t fail to be absolutely terrifying; he had me trying to mimic the voice for days! We all remember Heath Ledger as the Joker, and how good he was. And I’d have to say Hardy comes extremely close to matching that performance, which gives you an idea of just how good he was. It’s unfortunate that Hardy never takes off the mask (which, in case you’re wondering, helps fight the pain of past injuries and gives him added strength) because if he did, and we were able to see his facial expressions and emotions, he might well have had a shot at an Oscar nomination (who knows, maybe he still will, but I have my doubts). Regardless, Bane – in my opinion – is probably the standout feature of this third film.

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The always-excellent Hans Zimmer puts out another excellent soundtrack, with some of the old scores making a return, but with also some new ones which really help in communicating the dread and despair of Gotham’s citizens; the music does a really great job of conveying the necessary emotions. Even the occasional lack of music adds to the film – most notably in one fight between Bane and Batman.

The one thing that struck me about TDKR is that the film is much more about Bane and Bruce Wayne than it is about Batman. While the previous two films revolved primarily around Batman (especially ‘The Dark Knight’), this film gives a lot of the limelight to the man inside the suit and the man he must defeat. And it works. As I said earlier, this is probably the most introspective and thought-provoking film of the trilogy, and asks many questions of Bruce’s character. He is tested almost beyond his breaking point, which forces him to really dig deep and get the best out of himself. Before he can succeed, he must learn the truth about despair, hope, fear and strength, and this is in turn makes the audience really think about their own character and the lengths they would go to protect those they love.

True, this movie can be nitpicked to death, and there are certain plot holes which are left – surprisingly – open which can really only be closed by saying “It’s Batman”. But I am willing to suspend my belief – to some extent – for the 2 hour and 45 minutes that this film runs for. And with that, I can confidently say that this is a truly fantastic end to the trilogy. While it may not be as good as ‘The Dark Knight’ (I’m still debating that in my mind!), it certainly is the most emotional and thought-provoking of the three. Nolan must really be commended for making this trilogy which has redefined what comic-book movies should be like. TDKR has left me eagerly awaiting ‘The Man of Steel’, which Nolan is producing and co-writing. A brilliant end to a brilliant series.

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Are You Watching Closely?: ‘The Prestige’

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The Prestige

“The Prestige” Review

Cast

Christian Bale…………….Alfred Borden
Hugh Jackman……………Robert Angier
Michael Caine…………….Cutter

Credits

Director……………………Christopher Nolan
Producers………………….Emma Thomas, Aaron Ryder, Christopher Nolan
Writers…………………….Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Here’s another Christopher Nolan masterclass. Not often do you hear of directors who have never made a bad movie. In fact, you practically never hear of them. And yet, Nolan defies logic. Yes, his career has only just begun, but in the 7 directorial attempts he has made, 7 have been very good movies. In fact, 5 out of his 7 movies appear on IMDb’s Top 250 movies of all-time. Yes, that list is based only on user views rather than on critic opinions, but nevertheless, it is no mean feat. And ‘The Prestige’ is one of Nolan’s better movies.

‘The Prestige’ is set in the late 19th century, in both England and America. It is about two magicians, two friends, who are torn apart after one of them blames the other for his wife’s accidental death during a magic trick. They both become successful rival magicians as time goes by; all the while sabotaging each other’s performance, up until one of them performs the ultimate illusion. The other becomes obsessed with finding out the trick to this illusion, but this produces a series of tragic consequences.

The film starts with Cutter’s voice (played by Michael Caine), speaking about how a magic trick has 3 parts: (1) The Pledge, (2), The Turn, and (3) the hardest and most important part, The Prestige. During this monologue, the film cuts to Robert Angier (Jackman) performing one of his magic tricks, minus the third part, The Prestige. Alfred Borden (Bale) slips under the stage during this trick, and watches Angier fall into a ‘water escape tank’, and watches him drown. We then watch a court scene, in which Cutter tries to prove to the jury that Borden killed Angier.

After this, the movie jumps into ‘non-linear’ mode for pretty much the rest of its 130-minute runtime. Nolan helps us travel back in time and move into the present seamlessly, and it is one element that really makes this movie great. Like in ‘Memento,’ events do not happen in perfect chronological order. Most scenes take place during flashbacks, and occasionally jump to the present. The past includes Angier’s travels to America, as well as his and Borden’s endeavours in England. The scenes that happen in the present are almost completely made up of Borden’s prison scenes.

The way that Nolan makes this non-linear screenplay logical is through the use of diaries. While in prison, Borden receives Angier’s diary, and many of the scenes depicted in the movie are flashbacks from the diary. But this isn’t when the movie gets confusing. Nolan takes it a step further by showing, in the flashbacks, Angier reading Borden’s diary, which, in a way, produces the effect of a flashback inside a flashback. And this is when it becomes a little hard to follow. But the way Nolan has made this film, he makes it acceptable for us to not fully comprehend what has happened at what time, while still understanding the basic gist of the movie.

Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall give us spot-on performances as the two main ladies of the film. David Bowie, who comes in a little later in the film, plays Nikola Tesla with energy and vigour. Bale and Jackman, give us excellent performances as the two magicians. However, the standout performer is Michael Caine, who plays Cutter perfectly, embracing the character flawlessly. From the character development and acting side, this is a pretty good movie, though not deserving of adjectives like ‘great’ or ‘brilliant.’ What makes this film deserve such titles is its art direction and cinematography, both of which it was nominated for at the Oscars. Nolan captures the setting perfectly, as well as the mood and tone of the rivalry of the two magicians. He gives us another trademark film-noir movie, and yet it doesn’t get old.

The way he has created the characters, and in particular the setting and mood, is something extraordinary. He captures the times wholesomely, and shows us what the people of the 19th century really thought of magic and illusions. While the story focuses on the two magicians, there is a parallel story going on between what some would call the ‘modern-day magicians.’ While Borden and Angier are sabotaging and topping each other’s tricks, much the same is happening between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. While the old-style magicians are battling away, the modern-magicians are doing exactly the same thing. The film brings out the old and the new, and clashes them against each other, and Nolan does this with surprising accuracy and dynamism.

While this may be a movie about two magicians, I think it is more about the battle of the new and the old. It shows us both sides of it, with the magicians Borden and Angier representing the old, and Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison representing the new. I believe this film is also about human nature, and what we would do for the ones we love, and the extents that we would go to, to become better than another. Rivalry is in our genes, and Nolan presents it to us vividly and, at the same time, truthfully.

Like the other movies I have reviewed, this is not for those people who want to just enjoy some action. This is for those of you who look for meaning in a movie, and enjoy thinking about the events that transpire rather than just being spoon-fed. No doubt, this movie has its exciting moments, though what it thrives on is its meaning and deepness. That’s why I believe it’s a better watch on the second viewing. Yes, on second viewing that big twist at the end no longer is a surprise, but on second viewing, we can truly understand the events which have happened, and we can look deeper into the film to find it full of meaning. At the end of the first viewing, you will feel more than a little confused, but as you have probably noticed, I like having to think about a movie long after it’s over. And this film will really make you think.

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